Overblog Suivre ce blog
Editer l'article Administration Créer mon blog

Publié par Moicani

"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
"The Day The Clown Cried" Jerry Lewis ( Film Inédit) 1972
 


The infamous "lost" film of Jerry Lewis, which was buried due to a
legal dispute between him and the writers of the original screenplay.

It tells the story of a self-centered circus clown, Helmut Doork, who is
sent to a concentration camp after a drunken impersonation of Hitler.
There, he befriends the Jewish children of the camp, and performs
for them, angering the camp Commandant.  He is accidentally sent
with the children on a train to Auschwitz, and there, he is expected
to lead the children, like a Pied Piper, to the gas chambers.





SHIRLEY TEMPLE
IN AUSCHWITZ
by Shawn Levy

from the book
"KING OF COMEDY:
THE LIFE AND ART OF JERRY JEWIS"

 


Besides his charity work, and besides passing the benefit of his experience on to a new generation
of directors, there was another way Jerry hoped to do something important beyond all the
entertainment he'd offered the world over the years.  He wanted to make a film on an important
theme -- and he had had his eyes on a particular project for some years.  In 1966, during the
production of Way ... Way Out, his longtime sound engineer Jim Wright signed on as co-producer
of a film based on a script by publicity flack Joan O'Brien and TV critic Charles Denton.  The film,
known as The Day the Clown Cried, would tell the fictional story of a dislikeable, unsuccessful
(and gentile) German circus clown named Karl Schmidt who was sent to Auschwitz for satirizing
Hitler and was subsequently used by his Nazi captors to lead unsuspecting Jewish children
into the gas chamber.  Under the aegis of producer Paul Mart, the film would be directed
that spring in Europe by Loel Minardi.

Like many people in Hollywood, Jerry had heard tell of this remarkable story, which O'Brien had
conceived about five years earlier when she ws thinking and reading about the Holocaust while
simultaneously doing publicity work for Emmett Kelly.  It had an obvious mix of horror, pathos,
and drama, and it drew the attention of several important talents over the years, Milton Berle,
Dick Van Dyke, and Joseph Schildkraut among them.  But none of these performers had been
able to pull a film together, and the thing seemed destined never to be made,
a legendary "great unproduced screenplay".

In the spring of 1971, when Jerry was playing at the Olympia Theatre, he was visited by Belgian
producer Nathan Wachsberger, who had imported European films into the U.S. in the 1930s, been a
partner of George Jessel's in a production company, and made many unexceptional films in Europe.
Wachsberger had an option on O'Brien's script, and he wanted Jerry to star and direct.  "I have
made a deal with Joan," Jerry recalled Wachsberger announcing.  "We absolutely agree that you
are the only one who can play Helmut exactly as she envisioned him."  (Significantly, in Jerry's
memory, Wachsberger uses not the name O'Brien gave her protagonist -- Karl Schmidt --
but the name Jerry imposed upon the character when he rewrote the script --- Helmut Doork.)
 Jerry had nothing even in the pipeline back in Hollywood.  He agreed to look the material over.

His initial response to the proposal, he recalled, was fear.  "The thought of portraying Helmut still
scared the hell out of me," he wrote in his autobiography.  But Wachsberger laid it out for him as a
rare combination of a sweet deal and an important project:  French and Swedish financing, the
resources of Europa Studios (the very lot where Ingmar Bergman worked), a cast of fine European
actors.  Jerry finally relented.  By August 1, Variety was reporting that Jerry Lewis Productions
and Wachsberger had agreed to do the film together with a start-up date set sometime later that year.

It turned out to be an optimistic plan.  Jerry wanted to rewrite O'Brien's script, and he still had
obligations to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas to fulfill before the year ran out.  (His three-year
deal with the casino, calling for him to appear four weeks a year, was winding down, but he
renewed it that winter, stipulating that for 1972 he preferred to work his obligation off
in a single month to give him time to make the film.)

In February 1972 he and his new publicist, Fred Skidmore, flew to Stockholm to see to pre-
productions chores.  They went to Germany and Poland to visit the sites of concentration
camps.  And they went to Paris, where Jerry shot some material for the film while performing
with the Bouglione Cirque d'Hiver and saw to his theatre business.
(France's first Jerry Lewis Cinema opened in March 1972).

On April 5, shooting of the film proper began in Stockholm.  To prepare for his role, Jerry,
who'd been putting on weight in the past few years, lost thirty-five pounds on a grapefruit diet.
Joining him in the cast were Swedish actors Harriet Andersson (longtime collaborator of the
great Bergman), Ulf Palme, and Sven Lindberg, along with Jerry's French admirer, comedian
Pierre Etaix.  Press releases were distributed.  Hollywood trade papers carried announcements.

But something was fishy.  Although his $1.5 million film was in production, Nathan Wachsberger
was nowhere in sight.  After two weeks of filming, Jerry began to get troubling reports of the
financial condition of the project.  Suppliers hadn't been paid for film and other equipment. Crew
members and performers had been issued rubber checks.  Wachsberger remained in the south
of France, taking Jerry's frantic phone calls and assuring him that the money was forthcoming.

Wachsberger had very good reason to keep his distance.  He may or may not have had the
money, but he definitely didn't have the rights to O'Brien's material.  His option on the script
had expired.  Wachsberger had paid O'Brien a five-thousand-dollar initial fee, but she never
received the fifty thousand dollars due her before production began.  As a result, Jerry and
his company were in Sweden filming something that wasn't legally theirs to make.
And O'Brien told a reporter years later that she was certain Jerry was aware of it.
"Jerry knew the option had expired," she said, "but he decided to go ahead."

In the face of intransigence from his producer, and with a great deal of time, energy,
publicity, and passion already invested in the film, Jerry paid out of his own pocket for
expenses that Wachsberger ought to have incurred.  It was an abysmal circumstance,
and he couldn't hide his anxieties from his colleagues.  Lindberg, who played a Nazi
in the film, recalled how agitated Jerry was throughout the shoot.  "It was clear
he was not in good order those months here in Sweden," he said.

And, in fact, Jerry -- torn by his anxiety about the state of the production, by the possibility
of losing all of the money he was investigating in the film, and by the very emotions that the
project and his role called up in him -- could barely stand the strain.  As on his first self-
directed films, he pushed himself to his physical limits to see the thing through.  "I almost had
a heart attack," he told a New York Times reporter months later.  "Maybe I'd have survived.
 Just.  But if that picture had been left incomplete, it would have very nearly killed me."
(Indeed, given his perpetual nerve pain and his drug habits, it might well have.)

At one point, he revealed afterward, he actually closed down the production because of
Wachsberger's failure to perform his duties as producer.  Nevertheless, he persevered,
bleeding his own bank account in the process.  As he explained soon afterward, he turned the
stress of his situation into a benefit.  "The suffering, the hell I went through with Wachsberger
had one advantage," he said.  "I put all the pain on the screen.  If it had been my first picture,
the suffering would have destroyed me.  But I have the experience to know how to use suffering."

Ultimately, he said, he poured his entire soul into the film in a way he never had before. The
experience of shooting the climactic scene struck him as one of the transcendent moments
of his life:  "I was terrified of directing the last scene.  I had been 113 days on the picture,
with only three hours of sleep a night.  I had been without my family.  I was exhausted, beaten.
 When I thought of doing that scene, I was paralyzed;  I couldn't move. I stood there in my
clown's costume, with the cameras ready.  Suddenly the children were all around me, unasked,
undirected, and they clung to my arms and legs, theylooked up at me so trustingly.   I felt love
pouring out of me.  I thought, "This is what my whole life has been leading up to."  I thought what
the clown thought.  I forgot about trying to direct.  I had the cameras turn and  I began to walk,
with the children clinging to me, singing, into the gas ovens.  And the door closed behind us."

In June, when production finally wrapped, Jerry told Swedish reporters that Wachsberger, who
he claimed never showed up on the set or made himself available for consultation, had failed to
make good on his financial obligations.  Wachsberger retailiated by instructing his London lawyers
to sue Jerry for breach of contract, claiming that he had all he needed to finish the film without Jerry.

Through the following winter and spring, Jerry edited the movie, taking cans of film on the road with
him and working long hours in Los Angeles with Rusty Wiles.  He still had no way of knowing if the
film would be released, and his frustration and bitterness were obvious.  He drank beers in the
editing room, and he snapped at Wiles when he said that people who'd seen a rough cut of one
sequence felt it was a bit too long.  "Everybody's an expert," Jerry barked.  "There's a fucking
genius at every screening.  Where were they when the empty pages were in the typewriter?
 Where were they when we were freezing in fucking Sweden, shooting the film?  Too long?
 Jesus Christ!  ... It was the same thing with the dance sequence in The Patsy.  And I told them
then that they should just wait till it was fucking finished before they go telling me what's wrong
with it.  Just wait till I'm ready. I don't know who the fuck asked for their opinion anyway."

He saved his special wrath, though, for a young Swedish extra who made the mistake of turning
her eyes toward the camera during a shot that had been exceedingly difficult to capture.
 "There she is," he snarled at Wiles showed him the footage.  "There's the little cunt.
 Same little cunt who tried to rape us before.  Watch her eyes.  There.  See it?  Following the
fucking camera ... the sneaky little bitch.  Vamping for the camera.  She pulled that same
thing in another sequence, remember?  I told her to keep her fucking eyes to the front. That it
wasn't a beauty pageant ... There's no room for Shirley Temple in a concentration camp."

Increasingly, it seemed that all of the work he was putting into assembling the film would go
for naught.  Neither he nor Wachsberger had the clout or money to pull the frayed situation
together.  Europa Studios, claiming it was owed more than six hundred thousand dollars by
the production, held on to the negative, although Jerry kept the negatives of the final three
scenes (along with duplicates of much of Europa's holdings) as protection against the film's
being released without his cooperation.  "I took the last three shooting days," he remembered.
"I hold those negatives, the last three days.  So they have incomplete work there."  O'Brien
and her co-writer, Denton, for their parts, refused to sell the rights to their property anew
to Wachsberger or Jerry in the wake of the production, even after Jerry pleaded with them
personally upon his return to the States and showed them scenes from the film.

Much as he may have thought he could win sympathy for his case by showing O'Brien and
Denton his footage, the gesture might actually have turned the writers forever against him. "It
was a disaster," O'Brien said of the film years later.  "Just talking about it makes me very
emotional."   Jerry had changed more than just the name of her lead character.  He had turned
him from a mediocre clown into a gifted one, from a gentile to a Jew (Subcin: This is incorrect.
He is not a Jew in the rewritten script), and from a bastard into a hero, from "an egoistical clown,"
according to Jim Wright, who also saw a rough cut of the film, to "an Emmett Kelly, a very sad
clown."  The original story was a tale of horror, conceit, and finally, enlightenment and self-
sacrifice.   Jerry had turned it into a sentimental, Chaplinesque representation of his own
confused sense of himself, his art, his charity work, and his persecution at the hands of critics.
Furthermore, he had used the clown theme as an occasion to work into the film some of the silent
routines he had been performing in Europe -- clown material like the stuff he did on L'uomo d'oro.
 And, to the writers' chagrin, he had a characteristically relaxed attitude toward details:
"In one  scene," bemoaned Denton, "Jerry is lying in his bunk wearing a pair of brand-new
shoes after theoretically having been in a concentration camp for four or five years."

Others to whom Jerry showed his rough cut over the years held similar opinions of what they saw.
"I just remember rage," said Joshua White, director of the 1979 MDA telethon.  "He played
this rage because that's what he was filled with then.  He never really commits to the character.
He's always just Jerry. He's supposed to be this schlump, but he's got this slicked-back hair."

Comedian Harry Shearer, a longtime Lewis observer and a friend of White's who has allowed by
Jerry to view the rough cut, summed up the experience:  "The closest I can come to describing
the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz.
You'd just think, 'My God, wait a minute!  It's not funny, and it's not good, and somebody's
trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly held feeling.' "

Despite the webs of financing and litigation that kept the film under wraps, it refused to die
completely.  In 1980, when Jerry's next film, Hardly Working, proved a hit in West Germany
and France, Europa Films announced plans to shop the negative of The Day the Clown Cried to
European concerns who would finish and distribute it.  At the time, O'Brien reiterated her claim
that the film was made without any legal rights and could never be released.  "I'm so sick and
tired of stories being circulated regarding the Stockholm fiasco," she said, "that I felt it was time
to again state the facts, facts which everyone, including Lewis and the people at Europa Studios,
are well aware of."

Later that year, Jim Wright told the Hollywood trade press that he was still developing a script
of the story, with Richard Burton in mind for the lead.  Nothing happened.  In 1991 producers
Tex Rudloff (one of Wright's original partners) and Michael Barclay announced they would
make a version of The Day the Clown Cried in the Soviet Union as a joint production with the
Russian company Lenfilm.  Again, no film resulted.  The following year, yet another plan
called for Robin Williams to star and Jeremy Kagan (who'd recently made The Chosen)
to direct.  Yet again, nothing more was heard of the project.  In 1994 Barclay was talking
about a William Hurt version.  But it seemed no likelier than any of his previous efforts.

For his part, Jerry never surrendered the hope that he could see the project through.
Writing about the film in 1982, he said, "I'm still hoping to get the litigation cleared
away so I can go back to Stockholm and shoot three or four more scenes."  In 1984
he spoke of finishing the film -- and of making The Nutty Professor II.

Eventually, The Day the Clown Cried became a sore point with him; interviewers who poked
too closely at the topic could find themselves subjected to withering retorts.  A pair of Cahiers
du Cinema interviewers who went to speak with him in 1993 wrote that they'd been cautioned
in advance against mentioning the film.

Just as he had sworn to himself that he would someday see a cure for muscular dystrophy,
he swore he would live to see the release of The Day the Clown Cried:  "One way or another,
I'll get it done.  The picture must be seen, and if by no one else, at least by every kid in the
world who's only heard there was such a thing as the Holocaust."

He no doubt meant what he said, even if he was unconciously paraphrasing the
famous malapropism of Samuel Goldwyn:  "I don't care if it doesn't make a nickel.
I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it!"

 

With a new 3-D version of 'The Nutty Professor' in production, it appears that Jerry Lewis is finally coming out of his acting retirement. Since his last appearance in the film 'Miss CastAway' (2004), he accepted and then dropped a number of movie projects, most recently the spook-spoof 'Horrorween'. But at his lectures, fans and movie buffs alike still seem to be more interested in his past, and in particular in the one film Lewis refuses to talk about: 1972's controversial Holocaust epic 'The Day the Clown Cried'.

The film has achieved cult status over the years and is already regarded as part of movie history among cine lovers and historians, who often consider it to be one of the most important films in Lewis' career, despite the fact that the film has never been released.

The film, based on Joan O'Brien's now classic novel of the same name, has Jerry Lewis both starring and directing next to a fine cast including Bergman protégé, Harriet Andersson in the role as his wife. It tells the story of Helmut Door, a depressed circus clown at the end of his career. In the book Helmut is portrayed as an arrogant and selfish person, who after being arrested by the Gestapo for mocking Adolf Hitler at a drunken street performance, ratted out on nearly everyone he knew to save his life. While locked up in a Nazi camp for political prisoners, he tries to escape the torture and humiliation of the guards by bragging to them and inmates, what a famous and wonderful clown he once was. They ask him to perform and he finally agrees. It doesn't go like planned and the guards beat him up for his terribly bad performance. Pushed into the mud and left alone bruised, he realizes that a group of Jewish children from the opposite side of the camp were watching him and laughing. Delighted to have found a new audience, he starts to perform for them on a daily basis until the guards order him to stop. But Helmut is vain, and as his audience grows he trades in a portion of his food to a fellow inmate in return for a coat and bigger shoes. Yet again he is caught doing his act, and after a repeated beating he is sent as his punishment to accompany the children on a train to Auschwitz. 

To big criticism from the author, Lewis gave Helmut a softer touch, making him a man on a journey to redeem himself and his past actions.

O'Brien who co-wrote the first draft of the script himself together with Charles Denton pulled out, denying Lewis the rights to his book because he hated the new changes that were made, but filming began in Stockholm as scheduled. Producer Nat Wachsberger ran out of money to complete the film and it has been tied up in legal confusion ever since. Lewis continued shooting the film out of his own budget but never finished it. A rough cut of the film on videotape in Lewis' house is the only existing copy. The location of the film negative is unknown.

Lewis has stated myriad reasons for not releasing the film, from all of the legal issues to the fact that he is not satisfied with the overall product. For a short time he toyed with the idea to re-shoot some scenes and to release the film after all, telling an interviewer "One way or another, I'll get it done. The picture must be seen, and if by no one else, at least by every kid in the world who's only heard there was such a thing as the Holocaust."

But as time passes it seems Lewis has given up on the movie and none of us will ever see the the film that will now remain in limbo forever. No footage or scenes have ever leaked and only a handfull of close friends have actually seen the rough cut, including actor and comedian Harry Shearer who told Lewis that the film was 'terrible'. When asked to talk about the movie in Spy magazine he stated, "If you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz you'd just think My God, wait a minute! It's not funny, and it's not good, and somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly-held feeling."

There have been a number of films on the Holocaust, but not even 'Schindler's List' has provoked such mixed feelings and critciscm for it's context as 'The Day the Clown Cried'.

According to sources about various drafts of the script that have made their way to the internet, the film ends with Helmut making a deal with the Nazis to gain his freedom if he lurs all the children into the gas chamber. Helmut agrees. Waiting for a miracle as he guides the children into the "shower", he realises that no miracle could change their tragic fate—he takes a little girl's hand and follows her and the other children inside the chambe. The door closes behind him as he performs for them a last time, making them laugh when the Zyklon B gas starts to fill the room.

Not really the happy ending people have learned to expect in our modern PC age, so in the past few years a completely new war has started against the never seen movie. Helmut's actions and the message of the film are always in dispute.

Lewis stays clear of any accusations and refuses to give any further interviews or to answer any more questions about the making of his film or its message. Maybe Shearer is right and the movie is indeed terrible, and releasing it would only disappoint all the people who have been waiting 30 years to see it. So to all you folks who obsess about seeing the film, don't put your hopes up to high, just think of it as a lost movie or a legend you only heard about.

 


                                             




 

 

 

 


The Day The Clown Cried

 

 

 

 Original Screenplay by

Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton

Reviewed by Rich Drees

 

     When it began to appear that money was not forthcoming from Wachsberger, Lewis began to pay for the production out of his own pocket. This exacerbated the strain that Lewis would place upon himself when directing a film. Reportedly this took a toll on his performance. Lewis saw it another way, as he is immodestly quoted in Levy’s book-

The suffering, the hell I went through with Wachsberger had one advantage. I put all the pain on the screen. If it had been my first picture, the suffering would have destroyed me. But I have the experience to know how to use suffering… I was terrified of directing the last scene. I had been 113 days on the picture, with only three hours of sleep a night. I had been without my family. I was exhausted, beaten. When I thought of doing that scene, I was paralyzed; I couldn’t move. I stood there in my clown’s costume, with the cameras ready. Suddenly the children were all around me, unasked, undirected and they clung to my arms and legs, they looked up at me so trustingly. I felt love pouring out of me. I thought, ‘This is what my whole life has been leading up to.’ I thought what the clown thought. I forgot about trying to direct. I had the cameras turn and I began to walk, with the children clinging to me, singing, into the gas ovens. And the door closed behind us.

     By June, principal photography had wrapped and Lewis had already voiced his dissatisfaction with Wachsberger to the Swedish press.  Wachsberger in turn instructed his lawyers in London to sue Lewis for breach of contract, feeling that he had could finish the film without Lewis’ services.

     Lewis continued working on the film, editing throughout the following winter and spring with editor Rusty Wiles. Reportedly, Lewis was in a foul temper for most of that time. When viewing footage where one young Swedish extra made the mistake of looking directly into the camera, he is reported to have let loose a string of foul invectives and raged “She pulled that same thing in another sequence, remember? I told her to keep her  ****** eyes to the front. That it wasn’t a beauty pageant… There’s no room for Shirley Temple in a concentration camp.”

     Ultimately, all of Lewis’ work would be for nothing. Claiming that the production still owed them over six hundred thousand dollars, Europa Studios refused to release the negative, though Lewis did have duplicates of most of the footage, including all the elements from the last three days of filming. O’Brien and Denton refused to renew their option with either Wachsberger or Lewis, even after Lewis showed them selected scenes. This was a move that would ultimately backfire on the director. “It was a disaster,” O’Brien was quoted in Levy’s book. Denton added, “In one scene, Jerry is lying in his bunk wearing a pair of brand-new shoes after theoretically having been in a concentration camp for four or five years.”

     And so the film has languished, edited without a soundtrack or credits, in several film canisters in a safe owned by Lewis. Following the European success of Lewis’s Hardly Working in 1980, Europa Studios announced their intention to shop the negative around for a studio willing to finance its completion and distribution. O’Brien quickly put a stop to it.

     Over the years, there have been several attempts to make a new version of the story. In 1980, Wright announced that he was still developing a screenplay with the possibility of Richard Burton in the lead, but the project went no further. In 1991 one of Wright’s original partners Tex Rudloff and Michael Barclay announced plans to film the story in the Soviet Union in conjunction with the Russian production company Lenfilm, but the plan fell through. Robin Williams was touted to star in a production directed by Jeremy Kagan (The Chosen) the following year, but again no film ever materialized. Williams would go on to star in his own concentration camp drama, Jakob The Liar, in 1999.

     As time passed, Jerry Lewis became increasingly reticent about talking about the project, oft times greeting interviews questions on the subject with silence and a withering stare. Very few of Lewis’s inner circle have seen the film. Among those who have include comedian Harry Shearer and 1979 Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon director Joshua White and Rolling Stone writer Lynn Hirschberg, who interviewed the comic in 1982.

     When approaching the script, one has to remain in the frame of mind that this will not be The Nutty Professor Goes To Auschwitz. This was not an attempt to do a comedy set against the backdrop of the horrors of war, something that was adroitly handled on TV’s Hogan’s Heroes. Instead, Lewis was definitely trying for pathos, the way that many comics long to show the world that they are capable of delivering a serious performance. Unfortunately, even though Lewis himself reportedly heavily reworked the latter half of the script, it still just fails miserably.

     Lewis is Helmut Doork, a struggling clown in a German circus. Once a great star, he has been reduced to second banana status by his current employer. Doork dreams of regaining his lost star status, but can’t seem to motivate himself to recapture it. One night while getting drunk in a bar, Doork is overheard making some derogatory remarks about the Furher by some Gestapo agents.

     In short time, Doork is shipped off to a prison where he is tormented by the guards who hold out the possibility of release to the deluded Doork. Eventually the prisoner commandant discovers that his clowning keeps the children quiet and forces him to entertain the tykes on their way to the gas chamber.

     Sounds really tasteful, doesn’t it?

     Lewis wants us to be sympathetic to Doork’s plight. However, the scriptwriters have not given Doork one redeeming feature that allows the audience to care for him. Doork is cowardly and self-centered. On the rare instances that he stands up for himself or another prisoner, he gets hit and immediately castigates himself for showing some backbone.

     Lewis clearly seems to be striving for some kind of Chaplin-esque Little Tramp feel, but fail miserably. Chaplin’s Tramp character manages to put on a brave face and struggle through his circumstances through sheer force of will. Lewis’ Doork (now THERE’s a phrase I never foresaw myself writing . . .) just meekly accepts his situation and hides behind a vast wall of self-denial. There’s no way a viewer of this movie could be sympathetic towards him. It almost comes as a relief when the Germans chuck him into the oven at the end of this 164-page monstrosity.

     That’s right, this script clocks in at an over-sized 164 pages and not because there’s an epic storyline here, either. The story is actually pretty thin. But almost every page of this script is crammed with unnecessary description, notations and camera direction.

     Another failing of this script is its complete inability to mix drama and comedy. Benigni’s clowning in La Vita e bella (Life is Beautiful) is plot driven, deriving from his character’s desire to shield his son from the horrors surrounding them. Doork’s comedy bits are often set up by the guard’s cruelty. In one segment early in the script, a guard removes a blanket from Doork while he sleeps, allowing a cold draft to enter the barracks. Doork soon awakes and does some shtick with socks and other assorted clothing that are frozen stiff, eventually going to the off screen bathroom from whence issues the sound of crushed iced hitting the bowl, presumably Doork urinating! Not only is the comedy business old and tired, I’m sure it has been done to death before the advent of talkies, the frozen pee joke is just a bad cap to the scene. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m no prig. I’ve been a die hard Howard Stern fan for almost 15 years and love a well-crafted raunchy joke. This isn’t one though.)

     I’ll admit it. There is a part of me that desperately wants to see this film. Why? Well I could adopt a high minded attitude and say something along the line of “How can you can judge a film that is good unless you have an idea of what a bad film is like?” or “It’s important to see this film as part of cinema history” or whatever. Truth is, there’s a disturbing blob of morbid fascination inside me that craves a viewing of this film. Can it be as truly horrible as legend says? Well, if they do the script any justice, it most assuredly is.




The Day the Clown Cried est un film américain, inachevé et jamais sorti, de 1972 réalisé par Jerry Lewis. Ce film est une adaptation de l'œuvre éponyme de Joan O'Brien et Charles Denton en 1962. Ce film fut soumis à controverse et devint particulièrement impopulaire aux yeux des historiens et des cinéphiles pour un film qui n'a jamais eu de sortie officielle.(wikipedia)

Synopsis

La Seconde Guerre mondiale. Helmut Dorque est un clown déprimé, anciennement un clown du grand German Circus. Bien qu'il fit une fois une excellente performance avec les Ringling Brothers, Helmut est à présent dépassé et n'inspire plus aucun respect au sein du cirque. Après s'être fait déclasser à cause d'un malencontreux accident dont il fut le responsable lors d'une représentation, il parle de ses problèmes à sa femme qui lui conseille de travailler pour son propre compte. Avant qu'il puisse rassembler le courage nécessaire pour se défendre face à ses antagonistes, il surprend une conversation entre le clown principal Gustav et le responsable du cirque au sujet de son licenciement à moins qu'il ne se résigne, ce qui ravit Gustav. Affolé, Helmut est arrêté dans un bar par la Gestapo pour avoir vociféré contre l'Allemagne et contre Adolf Hitler. Après un interrogatoire dans les quartiers de la Gestapo, il est emprisonné dans un camp de concentration pour prisonniers politiques. Pendant les trois ou quatre années suivantes, il espère et attend une occasion de plaider sa cause.

Il tente de rester digne parmi les autres prisonniers en vantant la fameuse représentation dont il fut jadis l'auteur. Son seul ami dans le camp est un allemand au grand cœur nommé Johann Keltner, dont la raison de la présence au camp est floue mais vraisemblablement due au fait d'être un pasteur au franc parler à l'encontre des nazis. Les autres le talonnent pour qu'il leur montre de quoi il est capable, mais il n'en fait rien, réalisant qu'en fait, il n'est pas si bon. Frustrés, les prisonniers le battent et le laissent dans la cour à méditer sur sa situation. Soudain, il aperçoit un groupe d'enfants juifs riant de lui de l'autre côté du camp, là où sont captifs les prisonniers juifs loin de toute autre personne. Ressentant le besoin d'être à nouveau apprécié, Helmut se met en scène pour eux et gagne leur ravissement le temps de la performance, jusqu'à ce que le nouveau commandant de la prison ordonne qu'on le stoppe.

Après avoir stoppé cette représentation, les gardes de la SS l'assomment, ensuite ils font battre les enfants en retraite pour les éloigner de la barrière de barbelés. Horrifié de ce que les nazis font aux enfants, Keltner défie un gardien à se battre, mais il meurt rapidement sous les coups qu'il reçoit à la tête. Helmut, pendant ce temps, est placé dans un baraquement d'isolement. Voyant en lui une utilité, le commandant l'attache à l'aide du chargement des enfants juifs dans les trains à destination du camp, lui promettant ainsi la revue de son cas. Par double coup du sort, il atterrit accidentellement dans le compartiment d'un wagon a destination d'Auschwitz.

Comme on lui a offert la liberté s'il menait à bien sa mission, Helmut s'oblige à contrecœur dans cette voie. Après que les enfants ont pénétré dans la chambre, le remords le ronge tellement à propos de son acte qu'il entre aussi dans la chambre et se met à faire un spectacle.

La raison de ce dernier geste est sans doute qu'il souhaitait faire machine arrière sur tout son passé, mais certaines rares personnes à avoir vu ce film pensent que ce geste a pour but de sauver son propre ego. Alors que les enfants rient devant ce clown, ils meurent paisiblement sous les effets du gaz, le Zyklon B.(wikipedia)





THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, Lewis' long-suppressed film about a clown in Auschwitz who entertains kids on the way to the gas ovens, is back for one night only at the Hudson Theater! Come join Scott Aukerman, BJ Porter, Jackie Harris, Sean Hayes, Fred Willard and Jay Jonhston as "The Clown"! This one will sell out immediately so call NOW! THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED Wednesday, July 23rd 8pm show @ The Comedy Central Space at The Hudson Theater 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, 323 960 5519. Free! They sell alcohol out in the reception area. Get drunk before seeing the show. Really.





THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED
- The Jerry Lewis infamous Holocaust Clown epic was filmed in 1969-71, although it was not fully completed due to lack of funding and the fact that Lewis never bothered to purchase the rights to the novel. Once the authors saw the result, they refused to sell him the rights. Ouch. This is certainly one of the most desired of all “lost” films, and only a privileged few have seen the footage, including Harry Shearer, who described it as “a black velvet painting of Auschwitz.” Here is the only available footage. I have the script replete with Lewis footnotes, and I don’t know if I could take the sight of Lewis as a grumpy clown in a concentration camp, pissing ice cubes because of the cold weather. But I would try.





Distribution [

 

 

En 1971, alors qu'il se produit à l'Olympia, Jerry Lewis se vit offrir par Nathan Wachsberger la chance de jouer et de réaliser le film avec un financement complet de la part de la compagnie de production et de Europa Studios. Avant cette offre, plusieurs vedettes comme Bobby Darin, Milton Berle et Dick Van Dyke ont décliné l'offre. Lewis était lui-même réticent à prendre le rôle, surtout après avoir lu le script. Son autobiographie, Jerry Lewis in Person, en parle d'ailleurs : « La pensée de jouer Helmut me terrorisait »[1]. En plus, il avait le sentiment que son jeu était mauvais, en raison du sujet dramatique. Il demanda à Wachsberger :

« Pourquoi n'essayez-vous pas Sir Laurence Olivier ? Je veux dire, il ne trouve pas trop difficile le fait de jouer Hamlet mourant par étranglement. Mon job c'est la comédie, Mr. Wachsberger, et vous me demandez si je suis prêt à délivrer des enfants condamnés à la chambre à gaz ? Ho-ho. Petit rire — comment vais-je m'y prendre ?[2] »

Après avoir relut les premières indications de Joan O'Brien et Charles Denton, Lewis sentit qu'il pourrait faire quelque chose qui en vaille la peine et que les horreurs de l'holocauste et de la Seconde Guerre mondiale devaient être dites. Il signa donc le projet immédiatement après cela, mais, pour pouvoir faire ce film, il dut d'abord se mettre d'accord avec le Caesars Palace à Las Vegas où il joua pendant un mois, pour remplir son contrat annuel de 4 semaines. En février 1972, il se rendit aux camps de concentration d' Auschwitz et de Dachau et prit quelques photos d'extérieur des bâtiments à Paris pour le film, tout en retravaillant le script. Il aurait perdu 40 livres pour tourner les scènes au camp de concentration. Le Tournage commença en Suède en avril 1972, mais le tirage fut accompagné de nombreux problèmes. Le matériel et équipement nécessaires au film étaient perdus ou en retard dans la livraison, et l'argent du budget n'arrivait pas non plus. Lewis aurait promis que l'argent arrivait avec Wachsberger, qu'on n'a pas vu sur les plateaux.

Wachsberger manqua non seulement à son obligation d'apporter l'argent pour finir le film, mais changea d'avis et ne voulait déjà plus produire le film avant le début du tournage. Il avait versé à Joan O'Brien, l'auteur, les 5 000 dollars des droits de départ, mais ne lui envoya pas les 50 000 dollars dus préalablement à sa production. En résumé, le film se tournait alors qu'il n'avait pas de droit légal. Ne voulant pas abandonner le projet, Lewis avança les frais de production lui-même pour finir le tournage, mais les différentes parties impliquées dans le paiement des droits ne purent jamais aboutir, autrement le film aurait très bien pu sortir en salles. Une fois le film tourné et « dans la boîte », Lewis déclara à la presse que Wachsberger avait failli à ses obligations de producteur. Wachsberger se vengea en menaçant d'intenter un procès pour "rupture de contrat" et affirma qu'il avait assez d'agent pour terminer le film et pour sa sortie sans l'aide de Lewis. Voulant prévenir de l'éventuelle perte du film, Lewis prit le film monté brut, pendant que le studio gardait la totalité du négatif.

Lewis aurait possédé la seule copie connue du film sur Cassette vidéo, qu'il garda sous clé dans son bureau. La localisation du négatif original est inconnue. Il refusait de parler du film dans les interviews, et les journalistes étaient prévenus à l'avance de ne pas aborder le sujet en sa présence. Parfois, le film est montré en projections privées organisées par la haute sphère d'Hollywood. On ne sait pas d'où ils tenaient la copie du film. Il y a plusieurs années[3], un homme mentionna le film devant Lewis pendant un de ses discours de promotion, en disant qu'il y aurait des rumeurs comme quoi le film pourrait bien éventuellement sortir. Jerry Lewis répondit « Ce n'est pas votre fichu problème [4]! »


Bien qu'il n'y eut aucune publicité autour du film, ce film devint une sorte de légende presque immédiatement après sa production. La controverse centrée autour de la grande rumeur au sujet de son goût douteux et son insensibilité, et à la fois autour du fait que Lewis tiendrait le rôle-titre faisant ainsi une parenthèse dans sa carrière d'acteur déjà longue.

En mai 1992, un article paru dans le magasine Spy recueillit les paroles de Harry Shearer, acteur, qui vit le film en 1979 dans sa version montée brute :

« Avec la plupart de ce genre de chose, nous trouvons que l'anticipation, ou le concept, est meilleure que la chose elle-même. Mais le fait de voir ce film fut vraiment stupéfiant, dans le sens où nous sommes rarement en présence d'un objet parfait. C'était le cas. Ce film est considérablement mauvais, sa pathologie et sa comédie sont si grandement mal placées, que nous ne pouvons pas, dans notre fantasme de ce que ça aurait pu être, améliorer ce qu'il est réellement. Tout ce que nous pouvons dire c'est : "Oh mon dieu !" [5] »

Harry Shearer vint à parler aussi de la raison pour laquelle Jerry Lewis a fait le film : il pensait que « L'Académie ne pouvait l'ignorer. » De plus après avoir vu le film, il dit que le film était « atroce », ce qui l'aurait rendu furieux. Lorsqu'on lui demanda de résumer globalement son expérience du film, il répondit en disant que les placards d'où pouvait sortir le film était « comme si vous atterrissiez sur Tijuana et soudain voyiez une peinture du Camp de concentration et d'extermination d'Auschwitz faite sur velours noir. Vous penseriez seulement "mon Dieu, attendez une minute! Ce n'est pas drôle, et ce n'est pas bon, et quelqu'un essaye difficilement de transmettre un sentiment déjà bien ancré de la mauvaise manière." »

Ce même article rapporta les paroles de Joan O'Brien qualifiant le film de « désastre ». L'article parle aussi du fait qu'elle et l'auteur original du script, Charles Denton, n'autoriseront jamais la sortie du film, en partie à cause des changements que Lewis fit dans le script ce qui rendit le clown plus sympathique et plus ressemblant à Emmett Kelly[6]. Dans le script original, le protagoniste est arrogant, égocentrique s'appelant Karl Schmidt, qui était un « vrai bâtard », d'après Joan O'Brien. Dans le script de O'Brien, le personnage principal aurait essayé de se servir de sa femme, qui connaissait Monsieur Loyal, afin de donner un sens comique meilleur, et apparemment il en informa quasiment tous les gens qu'il connaissait après avoir été interrogé de manière à ridiculiser Hitler. Elle affirma que le projet original était sur un homme égoïste prenant conscience des faits et voulant se racheter, mais ce que Lewis changea la quasi-totalité de l'histoire en une sombre comédie Chaplinesque.

Au début des années 1980, le retour de Jerry Lewis avec le film Au boulot... Jerry ! se trouva être un cartoon en Europe, et Europa Studios annoncèrent leur projet d'éditer le négatif du film puis le sortir. O'Brien stoppa la rumeur en affirmant que le film ne sortirait jamais. Plus tard, Jim Wright révéla à la presse son projet de produire une nouvelle version de The Day The Clown Cried et fit mention du fait qu'il pensait à Richard Burton pour le rôle-titre. Malgré les bruits à propos du projet, rien de concret ne se fit. En 1991, le producteur Michael Barclay annonça que lui et Tex Rudloff (peut-être aussi avec l'aide de Jack Abramoff[7]) étaient en train de préparer une production jointe du Clown avec le studio de cinéma russe Lenfilm. On aurait proposé le rôle principal à Robin Williams à qui on donna une copie du script. Jeremy Kagan, qui réalisa L'Élu (The Chosen), aurait proposé de réaliser le film, mais encore une fois, l'idée fut abandonnée. Robin Williams joua plus tard en 1999 un rôle dans un drame se situant dans un camp de concentration, Jakob le menteur. En 1994, la rumeur désignait William Hurt pour le rôle également.

En ce qui concerne Jerry Lewis, il n'abandonna jamais l'espoir que son projet chéri naîtrait un jour. D'après un chapitre de son autobiographie, Jerry Lewis en personne, il essayait encore de clarifier le litige et ainsi retourner en Suède pour prendre des photos extérieures de bâtiments, éditer le montage et sortir le film. « Un jour ou l'autre, je le finirais », écrit-il, « le film doit être vu, et si ce n'est que par personne d'autre, au moins par chaque enfant dans le monde qui a entendu parlé de cette chose qu'est l'holocauste. »
(wikipedia)

Une production troublée [modifier]

En 1971, alors qu'il se produit à l'Olympia, Jerry Lewis se vit offrir par Nathan Wachsberger la chance de jouer et de réaliser le film avec un financement complet de la part de la compagnie de production et de Europa Studios. Avant cette offre, plusieurs vedettes comme Bobby Darin, Milton Berle et Dick Van Dyke ont décliné l'offre. Lewis était lui-même réticent à prendre le rôle, surtout après avoir lu le script. Son autobiographie, Jerry Lewis in Person, en parle d'ailleurs : « La pensée de jouer Helmut me terrorisait »[1]. En plus, il avait le sentiment que son jeu était mauvais, en raison du sujet dramatique. Il demanda à Wachsberger :

« Pourquoi n'essayez-vous pas Sir Laurence Olivier ? Je veux dire, il ne trouve pas trop difficile le fait de jouer Hamlet mourant par étranglement. Mon job c'est la comédie, Mr. Wachsberger, et vous me demandez si je suis prêt à délivrer des enfants condamnés à la chambre à gaz ? Ho-ho. Petit rire — comment vais-je m'y prendre ?[2] »

Après avoir relut les premières indications de Joan O'Brien et Charles Denton, Lewis sentit qu'il pourrait faire quelque chose qui en vaille la peine et que les horreurs de l'holocauste et de la Seconde Guerre mondiale devaient être dites. Il signa donc le projet immédiatement après cela, mais, pour pouvoir faire ce film, il dut d'abord se mettre d'accord avec le Caesars Palace à Las Vegas où il joua pendant un mois, pour remplir son contrat annuel de 4 semaines. En février 1972, il se rendit aux camps de concentration d' Auschwitz et de Dachau et prit quelques photos d'extérieur des bâtiments à Paris pour le film, tout en retravaillant le script. Il aurait perdu 40 livres pour tourner les scènes au camp de concentration. Le Tournage commença en Suède en avril 1972, mais le tirage fut accompagné de nombreux problèmes. Le matériel et équipement nécessaires au film étaient perdus ou en retard dans la livraison, et l'argent du budget n'arrivait pas non plus. Lewis aurait promis que l'argent arrivait avec Wachsberger, qu'on n'a pas vu sur les plateaux.

Wachsberger manqua non seulement à son obligation d'apporter l'argent pour finir le film, mais changea d'avis et ne voulait déjà plus produire le film avant le début du tournage. Il avait versé à Joan O'Brien, l'auteur, les 5 000 dollars des droits de départ, mais ne lui envoya pas les 50 000 dollars dus préalablement à sa production. En résumé, le film se tournait alors qu'il n'avait pas de droit légal. Ne voulant pas abandonner le projet, Lewis avança les frais de production lui-même pour finir le tournage, mais les différentes parties impliquées dans le paiement des droits ne purent jamais aboutir, autrement le film aurait très bien pu sortir en salles. Une fois le film tourné et « dans la boîte », Lewis déclara à la presse que Wachsberger avait failli à ses obligations de producteur. Wachsberger se vengea en menaçant d'intenter un procès pour "rupture de contrat" et affirma qu'il avait assez d'agent pour terminer le film et pour sa sortie sans l'aide de Lewis. Voulant prévenir de l'éventuelle perte du film, Lewis prit le film monté brut, pendant que le studio gardait la totalité du négatif.

Lewis aurait possédé la seule copie connue du film sur Cassette vidéo, qu'il garda sous clé dans son bureau. La localisation du négatif original est inconnue. Il refusait de parler du film dans les interviews, et les journalistes étaient prévenus à l'avance de ne pas aborder le sujet en sa présence. Parfois, le film est montré en projections privées organisées par la haute sphère d'Hollywood. On ne sait pas d'où ils tenaient la copie du film. Il y a plusieurs années[3], un homme mentionna le film devant Lewis pendant un de ses discours de promotion, en disant qu'il y aurait des rumeurs comme quoi le film pourrait bien éventuellement sortir. Jerry Lewis répondit « Ce n'est pas votre fichu problème [4]! »

 

To artists and intellectuals, the twentieth century has posed no questions more vexing than these:
 First, can art make sense of the Holocaust?  And second, why do the French love Jerry Lewis?

The first question can't really be answered, at least not in the space allotted here.
As for the second, it's my own opinion that the French have confused sloppy, uneven filmmaking
with Godardian anti-formalism.  Regardless, raising these two issues on the same page is not just
a pointless exercise in non-sequitur.  Because Jerry Lewis, like Elli Wiesel and Primo Levi
before him -- not to mention the producers of the NBC ministeries Holocaust --
has transformed the incomprehendible into art.

He did this two decades ago, in 1972, a year of cultural ferment that also saw a black man,
Sammy Davis Jr., snuggle Richard Nixon on national television.  It was Lewis' 41st film
(but his first to deal with the mass destruction of European Jewry), and it turned out to be the most
notorious cinematic miscue in history -- unfinished, unreleased, said by the few who've seen it to be
almost unwatchable.  Oh, there are also Von Stroheim's Queen Kelly and Welles' Don Quixote,
among other busts.  But no other film, seen or unseen, can boast both Nazi death camps
and the auteur responsible for The Nutty Professor.

There is only one The Day the Clown Cried.

Were it ever released, the film would surely provoke as great a stir as a rediscovered Balanchine
ballet or an unearthed Van Gogh -- if not on the pages of the Arts & Leisure section, then at least
among scores of sitcom writers, apprentice film editors, clerks in comic book stores, and others who
are expected to wear high top sneakers to work and whose fascination with Jerry Lewis transcends
easy irony.  But so far, The Day the Clown Cried hasn't surfaced, and it likely never will.
Only a handful of people have ever seen it.  And as they grow older ...

To preserve their memories for future generations, SPY has tracked down and recorded the
impressions of eight people who have seen The Day the Clown Cried or who participated in it's
creation.  You and I may never watch in mute wonderment as the lost gem lights up the screen
before us, but now, at least, we can know what it felt like for those who were there.
But first, the back story.

It sounds like a punchline in an overheated Hollywood satire:  Jerry Lewis in Auschwitz.
 Depending on your taste, the prospect may be as offensive or as inttriguing as ...
well, truly, no metaphor measures up to the particulars.  A synopsis:

An unhappy German circus clown is sent to a concentration camp and forced to become a
sort of genocidal Pied-Piper, entertaining Jewish children as he leads them to the gas chambers.
 The story is meant to be played as drama.  By all accounts, no one sings "You'll Never
Walk Alone", and Tony Orlando does not appear.

The Day the Clown Cried was supposed to be Lewis' first serious film as both director and star,
a proto-Interiors, "a turning point in the career of one of the most unusual performers in history",
as the move press kit put it, adding that Lewis is "a 20th Century ... phenomenon like atomic
energy, moon shot, heart transplants, and hippies...."  Nevertheless, many in Hollywood were
skeptical about the project.  Many outside Hollywood were skeptical, too.  Even French film critics
were skeptical.  As Jean-Pierre Coursodon would write a few years later in Film Comment,
"While it is not surprising that Lewis should come round to disclose a fondness for pathos shared
by so many comedians (there had been warning hints in his earlier pictures), his selection of
such a painfully bizarre theme does come as a bit of a shock."

Lewis himself was skeptical when he first read the script, though not about the material itself.
Moved, he found the screenplay to be a devastating indictment of the Nazi atrocities,
not to mention the mid-century leader he has called "the beady-eyed lunatic with the
comic mustache who had started it all."  Lewis' concern was whether The Day the Clown Cried
was a proper Jerry Lewis vehicle.  In Jerry Lewis in Person, his 1982 autobiography, he recounts
his reaction to the producer, Nathan Wachsberger, who asked him to play the part in 1971:

"Why don't you try to get Sir Laurence Olivier?  I mean, he doesnt find it too difficult to choke
to death playing Hamlet.  My bag is comedy, Mr. Wachsberger, and you're asking me if I'm
prepared to deliver helpless kids into a gas chamber.  Ho-ho.  Some laugh -- how do I pull it off?"
He shrugged and sat back. After a long moment of silence I picked up the script.
"What a horror ... It must be told."

The script had actually been written ten years earlier by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton
(she was a former PR woman who created the John Forsythe TV series To Rome with Love;
he was a TV critic for the Los Angeles Examiner).  Like a lot of screenplays, The Day the
Clown Cried was optioned by a string of producers; unlike a lot of screenplays, it attracted the
attention of Milton Berle, Dick Van Dyke, and Bobby Darin -- any one of whom would have
no doubt been as capable as Jerry Lewis of playing the title role with finesse and taste.
But it was Lewis, finally, around whom the requisite financing coalesced, and he took his
responsibility to heart:  "I thought The Day the Clown Cried would be a way to show we don't
have to tremble and give up in the darkness," he wrote.  "(The Clown) would teach us this lesson."

Lewis plunged into preproduction with the rigor of a Streep or a Deniro, touring Dachau and
Auschwitz and losing 35 pounds on a grapefruit diet.  He rewrote the script, changing the
protagonist's name from Karl Schmidt to the more distinctive -- and more Jerry-Lewis-movie-
like -- Helmut Doork.  With Wachsberger providing the financing (his other efforts include
They Came to Rob Las Vegas), and with Lewis as both star and director, The Day the Clown
Cried began shooting in 1972 in Paris, moving on to Stockholm, where most of the film was shot.
Lewis's costars included the Swedish actress Harriet Andersson, who had been directed by
Ingmar Berman in Smiles of a Summer Night; the German actor Anton Diffring, who
specialized in playing very bad Nazis; and a bunch of unwitting Swedish children.
"An International Cast", the ads might have trumpeted.

It's not easy to get specific details about what happened on a film set 20 years ago in Sweden
when the producer is dead and the director-star refuses to be interviewed.  Nevertheless, it
seems safe to say that something went terribly wrong on the set of The Day the Clown Cried.
By Lewis' account, Wachsberger took off to the south of France before the first day of shooting,
the promised financing dried up shortly thereafter, and Lewis began spending his own money.
Before the shoot had wrapped, he told Variety that he had temporarily shut down the production.
He also denounced Wachsberger, who promptly filed suit, claiming breach of contract.

These contretemps alone would have been enough to doom the project, and screenwriters O'Brien
and Denton were distressed to read about them in the trades, though they were even more distressed
that neither Lewis nor Wachsberger owned the legal right to be shooting their script in the first place:
According to the screenwriters, Wachsberger's option had run out before the filming began.
"Jerry knew the option had expired," says O'Brien today.  "But he decided to go ahead with it."

Lewis endured, sinking his own wealth (not easily renewable at that point in his career) into the
filming of a property he didn't own, on the assumption that audiences who had loved him imitating
retards would now want to see him escorting children to their death.  To make matters even more
Coppola-esque, Lewis' health was bad, and he had, he would later admit, a debilitating addiction to
Percodan.  "I think sometimes its difficult to be a director and (the star)," says Harriet Andersson,
who is somewhat philosophical about her Day the Clown Cried experience.  Sven Lindberg, a
Swedish actor who played a Nazi, remembers Lewis as "nervous" and preoccupied by his money
troubles:  "It was clear he was not in good order those months here in Sweden."

"I almost had a heart attack," Lewis told The New York Times shortly after finishing the shoot.
"Maybe I'd have survived.  Just.  But if that picture had been left incomplete, it would have
very nearly killed me ... The suffering, the hell I went through with Wachsberger had one advantage.
I put all the pain on the screen."  Whether or not you believe that the pain incurred in dealing
with an undercapitalized motion-picture producer is translatable into the pain incurred at Auschwitz,
you have to admire Lewis' dedication (to use a nonclinical term) and rue the fact that no
documentary film crew was on hand to capture The Making of The Day the Clown Cried.

"I was terrified of directing the last scene," Lewis told the Times.  "I had been 113 days on the
picture, with only three hours of sleep a night ... I was exhausted, beaten.  When I thought of doing
that scene, I was paralyzed;  I couldn't move. I stood there in my clown's costume, with the
cameras ready.  Suddenly the children were all around me, unasked, undirected, and they
clung to my arms and legs, they looked up at me so trustingly.   I felt love pouring out of me.
 I thought, 'This is what my whole life has been leading up to.'  I thought what the clown
thought.  I forgot about trying to direct.  I had the cameras turn and  I began to walk,
with the children clinging to me, singing, into the gas ovens.  And the door closed behind us."

IT MUST BE TOLD.  Alas, it will almost surely never be seen.  The Day the Clown Cried
is probably lost forever.  It has been left unfinished, never having made it beyond a rough cut.
The production's irregularities left the question of rights in a snarl:  Claiming that it is owed
more than $600,000, the studio in Stockholm has held on to the negative; the screenwriters
own the copyright.  Over the years, investors - Europeans, bien sur - have tried to put together
a deal to finish and release the movie.  O' Brien says she and Denton won't allow it.
And there the matter rests.

But what about the work?

Lewis has a copy of the rough cut on videotape.  He reportedlly keeps it in his office,
protected from harm and unclassiness by a Louis Vuitton briefcase.  Over the years, he
has screened it - or pieces of it - for a number of colleagues and at least one journalist.
Attempting to piece together the lost work, SPY interviewed eight of these lucky people.
Their impressions have been edited together to create a kind of roundtable discussion.

So dim the lights and sit back with a bowl of popcorn.  As critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon --
French critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon -- points out, "Although the odds
against it are staggering, it might turn out to be sublime."

To artists and intellectuals, the twentieth century has posed no questions more vexing than these:
 First, can art make sense of the Holocaust?  And second, why do the French love Jerry Lewis?

The first question can't really be answered, at least not in the space allotted here.
As for the second, it's my own opinion that the French have confused sloppy, uneven filmmaking
with Godardian anti-formalism.  Regardless, raising these two issues on the same page is not just
a pointless exercise in non-sequitur.  Because Jerry Lewis, like Elli Wiesel and Primo Levi
before him -- not to mention the producers of the NBC ministeries Holocaust --
has transformed the incomprehendible into art.

He did this two decades ago, in 1972, a year of cultural ferment that also saw a black man,
Sammy Davis Jr., snuggle Richard Nixon on national television.  It was Lewis' 41st film
(but his first to deal with the mass destruction of European Jewry), and it turned out to be the most
notorious cinematic miscue in history -- unfinished, unreleased, said by the few who've seen it to be
almost unwatchable.  Oh, there are also Von Stroheim's Queen Kelly and Welles' Don Quixote,
among other busts.  But no other film, seen or unseen, can boast both Nazi death camps
and the auteur responsible for The Nutty Professor.

There is only one The Day the Clown Cried.

Were it ever released, the film would surely provoke as great a stir as a rediscovered Balanchine
ballet or an unearthed Van Gogh -- if not on the pages of the Arts & Leisure section, then at least
among scores of sitcom writers, apprentice film editors, clerks in comic book stores, and others who
are expected to wear high top sneakers to work and whose fascination with Jerry Lewis transcends
easy irony.  But so far, The Day the Clown Cried hasn't surfaced, and it likely never will.
Only a handful of people have ever seen it.  And as they grow older ...

To preserve their memories for future generations, SPY has tracked down and recorded the
impressions of eight people who have seen The Day the Clown Cried or who participated in it's
creation.  You and I may never watch in mute wonderment as the lost gem lights up the screen
before us, but now, at least, we can know what it felt like for those who were there.
But first, the back story.

It sounds like a punchline in an overheated Hollywood satire:  Jerry Lewis in Auschwitz.
 Depending on your taste, the prospect may be as offensive or as inttriguing as ...
well, truly, no metaphor measures up to the particulars.  A synopsis:

An unhappy German circus clown is sent to a concentration camp and forced to become a
sort of genocidal Pied-Piper, entertaining Jewish children as he leads them to the gas chambers.
 The story is meant to be played as drama.  By all accounts, no one sings "You'll Never
Walk Alone", and Tony Orlando does not appear.

The Day the Clown Cried was supposed to be Lewis' first serious film as both director and star,
a proto-Interiors, "a turning point in the career of one of the most unusual performers in history",
as the move press kit put it, adding that Lewis is "a 20th Century ... phenomenon like atomic
energy, moon shot, heart transplants, and hippies...."  Nevertheless, many in Hollywood were
skeptical about the project.  Many outside Hollywood were skeptical, too.  Even French film critics
were skeptical.  As Jean-Pierre Coursodon would write a few years later in Film Comment,
"While it is not surprising that Lewis should come round to disclose a fondness for pathos shared
by so many comedians (there had been warning hints in his earlier pictures), his selection of
such a painfully bizarre theme does come as a bit of a shock."

Lewis himself was skeptical when he first read the script, though not about the material itself.
Moved, he found the screenplay to be a devastating indictment of the Nazi atrocities,
not to mention the mid-century leader he has called "the beady-eyed lunatic with the
comic mustache who had started it all."  Lewis' concern was whether The Day the Clown Cried
was a proper Jerry Lewis vehicle.  In Jerry Lewis in Person, his 1982 autobiography, he recounts
his reaction to the producer, Nathan Wachsberger, who asked him to play the part in 1971:

"Why don't you try to get Sir Laurence Olivier?  I mean, he doesnt find it too difficult to choke
to death playing Hamlet.  My bag is comedy, Mr. Wachsberger, and you're asking me if I'm
prepared to deliver helpless kids into a gas chamber.  Ho-ho.  Some laugh -- how do I pull it off?"
He shrugged and sat back. After a long moment of silence I picked up the script.
"What a horror ... It must be told."

The script had actually been written ten years earlier by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton
(she was a former PR woman who created the John Forsythe TV series To Rome with Love;
he was a TV critic for the Los Angeles Examiner).  Like a lot of screenplays, The Day the
Clown Cried was optioned by a string of producers; unlike a lot of screenplays, it attracted the
attention of Milton Berle, Dick Van Dyke, and Bobby Darin -- any one of whom would have
no doubt been as capable as Jerry Lewis of playing the title role with finesse and taste.
But it was Lewis, finally, around whom the requisite financing coalesced, and he took his
responsibility to heart:  "I thought The Day the Clown Cried would be a way to show we don't
have to tremble and give up in the darkness," he wrote.  "(The Clown) would teach us this lesson."

Lewis plunged into preproduction with the rigor of a Streep or a Deniro, touring Dachau and
Auschwitz and losing 35 pounds on a grapefruit diet.  He rewrote the script, changing the
protagonist's name from Karl Schmidt to the more distinctive -- and more Jerry-Lewis-movie-
like -- Helmut Doork.  With Wachsberger providing the financing (his other efforts include
They Came to Rob Las Vegas), and with Lewis as both star and director, The Day the Clown
Cried began shooting in 1972 in Paris, moving on to Stockholm, where most of the film was shot.
Lewis's costars included the Swedish actress Harriet Andersson, who had been directed by
Ingmar Berman in Smiles of a Summer Night; the German actor Anton Diffring, who
specialized in playing very bad Nazis; and a bunch of unwitting Swedish children.
"An International Cast", the ads might have trumpeted.

It's not easy to get specific details about what happened on a film set 20 years ago in Sweden
when the producer is dead and the director-star refuses to be interviewed.  Nevertheless, it
seems safe to say that something went terribly wrong on the set of The Day the Clown Cried.
By Lewis' account, Wachsberger took off to the south of France before the first day of shooting,
the promised financing dried up shortly thereafter, and Lewis began spending his own money.
Before the shoot had wrapped, he told Variety that he had temporarily shut down the production.
He also denounced Wachsberger, who promptly filed suit, claiming breach of contract.

These contretemps alone would have been enough to doom the project, and screenwriters O'Brien
and Denton were distressed to read about them in the trades, though they were even more distressed
that neither Lewis nor Wachsberger owned the legal right to be shooting their script in the first place:
According to the screenwriters, Wachsberger's option had run out before the filming began.
"Jerry knew the option had expired," says O'Brien today.  "But he decided to go ahead with it."

Lewis endured, sinking his own wealth (not easily renewable at that point in his career) into the
filming of a property he didn't own, on the assumption that audiences who had loved him imitating
retards would now want to see him escorting children to their death.  To make matters even more
Coppola-esque, Lewis' health was bad, and he had, he would later admit, a debilitating addiction to
Percodan.  "I think sometimes its difficult to be a director and (the star)," says Harriet Andersson,
who is somewhat philosophical about her Day the Clown Cried experience.  Sven Lindberg, a
Swedish actor who played a Nazi, remembers Lewis as "nervous" and preoccupied by his money
troubles:  "It was clear he was not in good order those months here in Sweden."

"I almost had a heart attack," Lewis told The New York Times shortly after finishing the shoot.
"Maybe I'd have survived.  Just.  But if that picture had been left incomplete, it would have
very nearly killed me ... The suffering, the hell I went through with Wachsberger had one advantage.
I put all the pain on the screen."  Whether or not you believe that the pain incurred in dealing
with an undercapitalized motion-picture producer is translatable into the pain incurred at Auschwitz,
you have to admire Lewis' dedication (to use a nonclinical term) and rue the fact that no
documentary film crew was on hand to capture The Making of The Day the Clown Cried.

"I was terrified of directing the last scene," Lewis told the Times.  "I had been 113 days on the
picture, with only three hours of sleep a night ... I was exhausted, beaten.  When I thought of doing
that scene, I was paralyzed;  I couldn't move. I stood there in my clown's costume, with the
cameras ready.  Suddenly the children were all around me, unasked, undirected, and they
clung to my arms and legs, they looked up at me so trustingly.   I felt love pouring out of me.
 I thought, 'This is what my whole life has been leading up to.'  I thought what the clown
thought.  I forgot about trying to direct.  I had the cameras turn and  I began to walk,
with the children clinging to me, singing, into the gas ovens.  And the door closed behind us."

IT MUST BE TOLD.  Alas, it will almost surely never be seen.  The Day the Clown Cried
is probably lost forever.  It has been left unfinished, never having made it beyond a rough cut.
The production's irregularities left the question of rights in a snarl:  Claiming that it is owed
more than $600,000, the studio in Stockholm has held on to the negative; the screenwriters
own the copyright.  Over the years, investors - Europeans, bien sur - have tried to put together
a deal to finish and release the movie.  O' Brien says she and Denton won't allow it.
And there the matter rests.

But what about the work?

Lewis has a copy of the rough cut on videotape.  He reportedlly keeps it in his office,
protected from harm and unclassiness by a Louis Vuitton briefcase.  Over the years, he
has screened it - or pieces of it - for a number of colleagues and at least one journalist.
Attempting to piece together the lost work, SPY interviewed eight of these lucky people.
Their impressions have been edited together to create a kind of roundtable discussion.

So dim the lights and sit back with a bowl of popcorn.  As critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon --
French critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon -- points out, "Although the odds
against it are staggering, it might turn out to be sublime."

Bruce Handy



The Criterion Collection will release a deluxe, 3-disc edition of The Day the Clown Cried, the long-lost Jerry Lewis masterpiece about alcoholic circus clown Helmut Doork, who entertains children at Auschwitz as they are led into the gas chambers.

 

THE "PANELISTS":

HARRIET ANDERSSON  is considered to be a national treasure in Sweden.
 She refers to her director on The Day the Clown Cried as "Yerry" Lewis.

CHARLES DENTON and JOAN O'BRIEN, the screenwriters, were shown
selected scenes by Lewis shortly after shooting was completed in 1972.

LYNN HIRSCHBERG interviewed Lewis for Rolling Stone in 1982.
He showed her the movie's climactic scenes.

SVEN LINDBERG claims that his many Swedish films are unknown
to American audiences.   He pronounces his j's in the Anglophone manner.

JOSHUA WHITE, a television director, directed The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon in
1979.   At the time, he had an opportunity to screen the entire Clown rough cut. He watched it
with HARRY SHEARER, actor, writer, SPY contributor, and Telethon connoisseur.

JIM WRIGHT is a producer who used to be on Lewis' staff.  Although Wright first brought
the script to Lewis' attention in the mid-1960s and has since had an option on it himself,
he was not involved in Lewis' production.  Despite his reservations about Lewis' version,
he ays that if he could get financing with Lewis as a principal,  he would happily
recast him:  "That man is very talented.  He can do anything."
 

SPY:  What was it like seeing The Day the Clown Cried?
JOAN O'BRIEN It was a disaster.  Just talking about it makes me very emotional ...
(Her voice trails off.)
HARRY SHEARER:  With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation,
or the concept, is better than the thing itself.  But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring,
in that you are rarely in the presense of a perfect object.  This was a perfect object.
 This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced,
that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is.
Oh My God! - thats all you can say.
 

SPY:  Can you compare it with anything else Lewis has done?
SHEARER:  The only thing in Jerry's oeuvre that really is like it is a wonderful thing that he
did early in the telethon.  It was a dramatic tape of an LA actor who hosted the Popeye show,
and Jerry shot it.  The guy plays Muscular Dystrophy.  It's a staged reading:  (scary voice)
"I am Muscular Dystrophy, and I hate people, especially children.  I love to make their
limbs shrivel up!"  They showed this for several years before cooler heads prevailed.
In it's sense of misplaced dramaturgy it was the closest I ever came to seeing
anything that would be a real precursor to the clown movie.
 

SPY:  Ms. O'Brien, what was the genesis of the screenplay?
O'BRIEN:  After the war was over, when I heard what had happened in Germany, I was so
ridden with guilt.  And when I heard that children were put in these things, it just practically
blew my mind.  And then years go by, and Im doing PR for Emmett Kelly, and Emmett said
to me,  "A clown doesnt play to the adults. The only thing that matters to him is children."
 I put these two things together.
 

SPY:  Clowns and concentration camps.  Can you give a synopsis.
JIM WRIGHT:  Helmut is a clown who's really a bastard.
O'BRIEN:  He uses people. He gets his girlfriend to talk to the owners of the circus
he works at to try and make him the first clown.  Of course, they can't, because he's terrible.
 So he gets mad, and he goes out and gets drunk, and he does these imitations of Hitler.
WRIGHT:  He talks about how nobody likes to laugh anymore because of all this Heil Hitler
stuff.   And he's so drunk when he's made a salute that he just falls flat on the floor, and we pan
back & see these shiny boots right at his head. And we pull back, and we're in an interrogating office.
O'BRIEN: He tells on everybody he ever knew, whether he felt they were anti-Hitler or not.
 He's just trying to save his own skin.  And even in prison he's a nothing.
WRIGHT:  He's put in political prison.  They put barbed wire between the Jewish prisoners
and the political prisoners (Helmut is not Jewish). And all this time, he's always bragging about
what a great clown he was.
O'BRIEN:  (The political prisoners) keep saying "Do a routine ... Give us something to laugh at."
 Of course, he can't, because he knows they wont laugh at him.
WRIGHT:  So they give him a big push and he falls into the mud.  He's pounding on the ground,
saying "I am a clown, I am a clown!"  And we hear laughter, and behind the barbed wire
is this little Jewish girl and her brother.
O'BRIEN:  They thought the slip was funny.  Helmut doesnt know whether theyre laughing at him
or with him.  So he picks up a little mud and puts it on his nose. Then they really start to laugh.
More children come to the fence. Helmut gets up and says to the other inmates,
"Look - theyre laughing at me!  I am a great clown!"
 

SPY:  It's the moment of exaltation, sort of like when the ape throws the bone in the air in 2001?
O'BRIEN:  From then on, he just thinks about the kids.
WRIGHT:  He uses soot from the stove to give him a little bit of makeup, and some
pigeon droppings for the white.  He trades his food for a big man's shoes and coat,
and he starts really performing for these kids.
O'BRIEN:  The commandant lets him for a while but then says, "This has got to stop."
One day Helmut goes out and there are no children.  They've been loaded on a boxcar
to be taken to Auschwitz.  But townspeople near the boxcar are starting to say,
"Why are there children in there?"  So the commandant puts Helmut on the boxcar
to keep the kids quiet.  But through a little mishap, the car pulls away, and Helmut's on it.
 

SPY:  So he ends up at Auschwitz.
WRIGHT:  Theyre going to use him as a Judas goat to take the kids to the gas chamber
and keep them from being frightened. Of course, the children dont know it's a gas chamber -
they think its the showers.
O'BRIEN:  This is not a great hero.  He stands at the door and lets the children go in. But
there's one little girl who hesitates and holds her hand out to Helmut.  He is shaken.   And
then he looks at all those little faces looking up, waiting for him to do something funny. And
so he pulls a stale piece of bread from his pocket and starts throwing it in the air and trying
to catch it in his mouth - fairly stupid stuff.  And thats the end.
WRIGHT:  Even at the end, you dont know whether he did it for the kids
or he did it for his own ego.
 

SPY:  So that the original screenplay.  Lewis altered it, right?
WRIGHT:  Jerry completely changed the clown.  Instead of being an egotistical clown,
Jerry more or less is like an Emmett Kelly, a very sad clown.  You feel sorry for him.
JOSHUA WHITE:  It's the clown as the one really miserable person.  Its Jerry's idea of
pathos - its not particularly original, but he really thinks in those simplistic terms.
 

SPY:   Ms. Andersson, do you remember any of your scenes?
HARRIET ANDERSSON:  We were in a kitchen or something.   Im sorry, its just
a little confusing because I felt there ... It was something wrong with it, in a way.
And it was such a long time ago.
 

SPY:  What is Helmut's actual clowning like?
LYNN HIRSCHBERG:  Tripping, pratfalls, typical Jerry stuff.
 That grotesque spastic stuff that he does.
WHITE:  He does these bad silent routines and theyre intercut with these
shots of blond, blue-eyed, obviously Scandinavian kids laughing in bleachers.
 

SPY:  How did Jerry deal with the more dramatic demands?
WHITE:  The scenes were so dramatic - it was, after all, set in a concentration camp - that
they were beyond his range.  Other comedians who have a similar problem handle themselves
better, they position themselves so that other actors take the focus in a dramatic scene.
 But Jerry would point the camera on himself and then attempt to be in this deep
dramatic moment in which the Holocaust was playing out right in front of him.
 

SPY:  Any specific memories - eye-rolling, teeth-gnashing?
WHITE:  I just remember rage.  He played this rage because thats what he was filled with
then. He never really commits to the character.  He's always just Jerry. He's supposed to be
this schlump, but hes got this slicked back hair.  Hes practically wearing the pinkie ring.
 

SPY:  He literally has slicked back hair?
WHITE:  Yes.
CHARLES DENTON:  In one scene Jerry is lying in his bunk wearing a pair of brand new
shoes after theoretically having been in a concentration camp for four or five years.  I think
he also has a shot of the prisoners where all the women were in Sunday outfits.
 

SPY:  The mise-en-scene  was problematic?
WHITE:  It was filmed under very difficult conditions, and it shows.  It almost looks like a student
film.  Its supposed to be Auschwitz, and its completely underpopulated.  There are all kinds of
art-direction conceits, like "We'll just play it against black, and it will look like he's in the middle
of the ring."   It's hopeless.
 

SPY:  Can you see the influence of any European directors?
SHEARER:  The only European influence I can see is that of Paris street mimes.
It really is that level of (turns head sideways and makes contorted, maudlin clown face).
 

SPY:  Ms. Andersson, youve worked with Bergman and Jerry Lewis.  Any similarities?
ANDERSSON:  I never compare my directors.  I dont think thats fair.
SVEN LINDBERG:  All directors direct.  They are the same.  But this one, Jerry Lewis,
was more pressed in some ways.  I was never troubled with the work -
I thought it was good - but he was so nervous always.
 

SPY:  How are the Nazis portrayed in the film?
SHEARER:  They're evil incarnate.  There's no shading.
WHITE:  Anton Diffring, this hammy German actor, plays the main Nazi.
You can tell he was embarrassed.  The performance was right out of Hogan's Heroes.
 

SPY:  How does Jerry play the final scene?
HIRSCHBERG:  Its very Pied Piper-ish. There are like 10, 15 children. Theyre like seven or eight
years old.  Helmut rounds them up.  Theyre in a yard. He takes them off to the showers-slash-ovens:
 "Where are we going, Helmut? Where are we going?"  He's telling jokes and stories to the kids
and singing songs.  He does a lot of Jerry schtick - youre supposed to laugh at his routines yet be
appalled by the horror. The children are cheerful because he's Helmut the Great. Meanwhile, of
course, he's terribly sad.  Because he has a sad thing to do.  But he's smiling behind his tears, because
he's trying to embrace the children.  They're tugging at his clothes.  Now he's standing in front of the
oven. The children just march in a door.  It hasnt been turned on yet. You can still hear them laughing
inside.  And then he sort of stands there on the outside and starts to cry. One tear rolls down the clown
makeup --  they make an art-direction point of it.  And then he goes in himself ....
 

SPY:  Can you describe your sensations as you watched this?
HIRSCHBERG:  I was appalled.  I couldn't understand it.  It's beyond normal
computation.  You look at it and think, What must he have been thinking when he did it,
thought about doing it, thought it was good?
SHEARER:  I think Jerry probably thought, The Academy can't ignore this.
WHITE:  Its an idea that defeated itself.  For the movie to have a center, for it to work, you had
to feel for this clown.  And he's not funny, and he's not articulate, and he's not nice. And then the
fact that this character is placed anywhere near a concentration camp where children are being
killed ... He's trying to create a magic character, and instead he creates a pathetic character.
SHEARER:  The closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and
suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz. You'd just think, 'My God, wait a minute!
 It's not funny, and it's not good, and somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to
convey this strongly held feeling.
LINDBERG:  My impression was that it was very serious for him

Commenter cet article

top cyber monday deals 2015 19/10/2015 07:11

Hi I found your site by mistake when i was searching yahoo for this acne issue, I must say your site is really helpful I also love the design, its amazing!. I don’t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site.

where are the best labor day mattress sales of 2015 05/09/2015 10:00

Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.

bonne haleine 22/02/2015 17:05

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

solution contre mauvaise haleine 22/02/2015 17:05

This design is steller! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

Dissertation Proposal 23/08/2010 15:17



it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.

Proposal for Dissertation